In the last few years the cosmetic industry have added value to their top cosmetic lines by the addition of synthetic peptides. The inclusion of synthetic peptides has added glamour to the upper line of cosmetics and certainly has added a steeper price. But, do peptides really enhance skin care; to better answer that question, we need to understand a bit of biology; it is known that there is a number of growth factors, that is proteins that are normally produced in the human body that are responsible for the proliferation of certain types of human cells; for example epidermal growth factor (EGF) is a 53 amino acid long protein that regulates cell growth, proliferation and differentiation, when it binds to the corresponding EGF receptor. This protein was discovered by Stanley Cohen, who won the Nobel Prize for this work, in 1986. Since 1989 it has been used in the cosmetic industry. The protein contains 6 cysteines, which form 3 disulfide bridges, which confer the specific 3 D-structure responsible for its bioactivity.
Furthermore, there are other peptides such us the RGD peptide, that was derived from fibronectin; this short trimer functions as a cell adhesion factor, so when cells divide, the presence of RGD peptide, allows them to form multilayers; therefore it is important in tissue formation.
Unbeknown to most of us, the skin is the biggest organ of the human body and covers its entirety; as such it has not only protective functions, but also immunological, metabolic and thermoregulatory functions. The skin is made up of three distinct layers: the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. The epidermis is the external structure of the skin and has a protective function. The cosmetic industry values any and all compounds that have a positive impact on the skin, therefore active ingredients that protect, and maintain skin health are highly desirable.
Consequently synthetic peptides do have a biological basis for perhaps having a positive impact on skin well being; however most creams that incorporate peptides in their formulas do not necessarily conduct FDA controlled studies, that include statistically significant number of individuals, in order to appreciate the effects claimed for a given cream. So, whereas certain synthetic peptides do have positive biological impact, when produced by our own body and administered in clinical relevant dosages, the positive effects of peptides incorporated in facial creams and the like, is difficult to assess as, most do not have controlled, placebo double blinded studies to back them up.